How do I find the best travel insurance?
Finding the right travel insurance was difficult enough before coronavirus pandemic struck.
Shortly after the pandemic was announced, dozens of insurers stopped selling policies to new customers. Now, you can buy cover again - but most policies contain COVID-19 exclusions.
For the time being, coronavirus-related disruption to any overseas trip is still a very real possibility - so it's important to find out what a potential policy will cover you for, and what it won't.
This guide was last updated on 21st January 2021. See our regularly updated coronavirus travel insurance news story for more information.
- Find out more: the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?
Best and worst travel insurance companies
Because of the impact on the market of COVID-19, we've temporarily stopped recommending individual travel insurance providers.
However, we think travel insurance is still essential if you're heading abroad, and we continue to scrutinize insurers. In this guide, we've rated insurers on how well they cover coronavirus-related incidents, such as getting sick or having to cancel your trip.
Bear in mind this isn't a rating of insurers' customer service, or value for money.
What is coronavirus (COVID-19) cover?
Most travel insurers are now selling cover, and most offer a degree of protection in the event that coronavirus interferes with your travel plans - so-called Covid cover.
In October 2020, we contacted 73 insurance providers and quizzed them on whether their policies covered specific coronavirus-related scenarios. We've awarded each provider's Covid-cover from one of four ratings: Basic, Low, Superior and Complete.
All 73 insurers we surveyed confirmed they offer medical cover if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 (Basic cover).
43 of the 73 also provided cancellation cover, if you can't go on your trip because you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Low cover).
Far fewer - just 13 of the 73 - provided cancellation cover if you can't go on your trip because you've been told to self-isolate without having tested positive - for example if you've received a test and trace notification from the NHS (Superior cover).
Not a single insurer offered Complete cover, which would cover you if you can't go on your holiday due to a change in advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO - formerly the FCO).
Which insurers offer the best coronavirus (COVID-19) cover?
Post-lockdown travel insurance: what to look out for
In our analysis we've focused specifically on features of coronavirus cover that we think are the most vital. But it's important to note that this isn't an exhaustive appraisal of the policy.
If you're shopping for travel insurance, look out for:
Look for cover of at least £2m (Europe) or £5m (worldwide).
All insurers we know of will cover you for Covid-related medical treatment while you're away. However, make sure you've got a sufficient amount of cover for any potential medical emergencies.
- Make sure your insurer has a 24-hour emergency helpline.
Disruption and cancellation cover
Look for cover of at least £3,000 - or the value of your trip.
Look for cover that will reimburse you for costs associated with delays, missed departures or being forced to remain at your destination for longer than planned. Sometimes this comes as an add-on to the main policy.
- Do read the smallprint - some cancellation policies only cover an incredibly narrow range of circumstances.
Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI)
Look for the same level of cover as you would for cancellation.
This will cover you if your airline goes bust before you fly.
The coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on airlines as demand for bookings falls. Flybe, which collapsed earlier this year, might not be the only airline to do so during the outbreak.
Booking flights over £100 with a credit card also gives you protection under Section 75.
When considering your level of cover, don't forget about the excess.
If you claim, this sum will be subtracted from the amount the insurer pays you. So if you had a £3,000 cancellation claim, and a £200 excess, you'd get £2,800 from your insurer.
A high excess may make a policy's premium cheaper, but could dissuade you from making small claims, as the amount you'd get paid out would hardly justify the effort.
Find out more: travel insurance explained
Other ways to cover your holiday against COVID-19
When it comes to Covid-19, for now, insurance won't do the full job of protecting your travel plans.
This means you should consider supplementing it with other protections. It's also important to note that travel insurers expect you to claim with them only if you can't recover your money through other channels.
Package holiday companies
If a package holiday firm cancels your holiday, or airlines can't fulfil flights, you're entitled to a refund by law.
Unfortunately, in the wake of Covid, not all travel providers fulfilled their legal obligations. For peace of mind, choose a firm that is one of our Which? Recommended Providers.
- Find out more - Your legal rights with package holiday companies
If you buy a package holiday that includes flights from an ATOL protected firm, you'll get your money back if it goes bust. You'll also be repatriated if this happens while you're on holiday.
Your credit card provider
If you can, pay for your holiday with a credit card.
If you pay with a credit card for services costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 that aren't provided as advertised, you can claim the money back from your card supplier if the seller (i.e the holiday company) won't refund you.
- Find out more - Section 75
Banks have similar schemes to help you recover money for services that haven't been fulfilled as paid for. These are known as 'chargeback'.
Chargeback can be used to recover debit and prepaid card payments, as well as credit card payments below £100.
Banks aren't legally bound to do this in the same way credit card providers are under Section 75, so you should always pay for amounts over £100 with a credit card if possible.
- Find out more - how to use chargeback
Get top money-saving tips from Which?
Sign up to the Which? Money Weekly newsletter to get our latest news, tips and deals straight to your inbox.